A dozen hardy animal lovers braved Saturday’s snowstorm to attend the first meeting of a group called Belleville Area Animal Rescue Center, or BAARC for short.
The meeting was held at the Van Buren Township hall during an unexpected storm that dropped six or so inches of snow on this area during a few hours in the afternoon, making roads almost impassable because there was no plowing or salt.
Al Ostrowski of Van Buren Township, an animal control officer in Dearborn, former VBT animal control officer and an elected VBT trustee, stressed he was spearheading the project for an animal shelter/dog park as a private citizen.
Ostrowski rented meeting space at the township hall for Saturday’s meeting, but the next meeting at 4 p.m. March 5 will be at the Belle Villa Clubhouse in the City of Belleville.
Ostrowski’s dream to have a non-profit animal shelter and dog park in VBT was encouraged recently when businessman Ron Tinsley offered to donate five acres he owns on Martinsville Road, north of Savage, for the project. The acreage is already enclosed by a six-foot fence.
The Van Buren Township dog pound closed on Feb. 1 and now all stray dogs are being taken to the Michigan Humane Society in Westland.
At Saturday’s meeting, the group informally agreed to the name proposed by Ostrowski and Diane Madigan and listed things that had to be done to get the project off the ground.
Ostrowski said he hopes the dog park can be up and running this summer, but the shelter may take several years.
Attorney Tom DiPietro has offered to handle legal affairs for the non-profit shelter project, pro bono, and Chase vice president Anmar Suhail offered to help them set up their bank account, Ostrowski said.
A township resident, Jennifer Dale, who is a grant writer for the Henry Ford museum and other organizations, offered to write grant applications and plan fund raisers, Ostrowski said. John Delaney offered electrical work and some construction help.
Ostrowski said an aggregate company offered free rocks and stones, if the volunteers would pick it up. He suggested Davey could be contacted for donation of wood chips for paths.
Marcie and Pete LaFramboise of Friends of Michigan Animals Rescue were present at Saturday’s meeting to give advice on setting up a non-profit shelter, something they did eight years ago.
While they had hoped to set it up in Van Buren Township, where they lived at the time, roadblocks were set up by the township and FMAR relocated to Sumpter Township, where the shelter was met with open arms.
Pete LaFramboise said FMAR had an extra microchip scanner they could donate to BAARC.
They recommended the new group appoint a board of directors, set up bylaws and immediately file for 501c3 designation, so they can receive donations for the project.
Five board members are required for the filing and so Ostrowski will be seeking volunteers to serve in the un-paid positions. Emails will be going out to those who have shown an interest in the past, but others are welcome.
Besides the non-profit status, those present agreed it was very important to make sure the zoning of the land is suitable for the project. Carl Johnson, a member of the VBT Planning Commission, said he would investigate that piece of the puzzle.
Ostrowski said township resident Reg Ion suggested the group try to get some of the bricks and fixtures from the old Belleville High School, which will be torn down in 2012.
At the end of the meeting, that lasted almost two hours, Marcie LaFramboise encouraged Ostrowski.
“You’ve had this passion so long and it’s going to happen.”
She told the story of how she first saw a pole barn along Rawsonville Road that she thought could be used by FMAR. Though it was a long shot, she contacted the owner, then Augusta Township, then Gasper Recycling, and got it moved to FMAR’s Arkona Road location without charge.
That was the building that was shown off to the public recently as FMAR’s new Cat Haven. The volunteers moved the cats from the old facility to the new facility on Saturday, before the storm started.
Marcie LaFramboise urged the group to start a newsletter to keep people informed of what was going on. The newsletter also will bring needed donations, she said.
And, she stressed, “We all have to work together,” noting the group must be open to help from anyone.
For more information, write to email@example.com or call Kathy Ward at 697-2369. Donation checks can be made out to Belleville Area Animal Rescue Center and sent to P.O. Box 190, Belleville, MI 48112. Receipts will be sent to donors.